Hammami: From Deep South Bible school to 'rapping jihadi'
Thursday, September 12, 2013
American extremist Omar Hammami, who was reported killed in Somalia
on Thursday, switched a mundane life in Alabama for a spot in the global
Jihad, earning a $5 million bounty on his head from the US but
eventually falling foul of his fellow fighters.
Hammami -- better known as Al-Amriki or "the American" -- was reported
killed in a shootout with the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents he had
left America to fight alongside.
Born in 1984 to a southern
Baptist mother with Irish roots and a Muslim father with a Syrian
background, Hammami said he had an unremarkable upbringing in Daphne,
Alabama, with the usual teenage crushes on girls and occasional deer
But he jetted into anarchic Somalia in 2006 and began to
work for the Shebab rebels, helping woo young foreigners through his
English-language rap songs and videos.
Writing in his
autobiography, "The Story of An American Jihadi", Hammami details the
strange journey that took a boy once top in Bible studies to a faraway
war to become a fugitive from his homeland.
"I guess I hope that
Muslims around the world also take my life as an example," he wrote in
the book, which he released last year on Islamist websites.
that I'm extremely special, but then again I haven't seen too many
middle class 'white guys' from Alabama in jihad these days. Hopefully
others will say to themselves: I can do that too!"
At one time
Hammami was seen as a key leader for foreign fighters in the Shebab,
though many downplayed his significance, and he dramatically fell out
with senior commanders.
He showed little ability at fighting
itself: describing his struggle on arrival in the Somalia to integrate
with the fighters, and joy at being given an automatic rifle -- which he
"had no idea how to use" at first.
Later he received hand
grenades, his experience with which he admitted was limited to that of
"anyone who had previously watched a Rambo flick (film)".
But he also detailed hardships including poor food, as well as a constant fear of attacks by unmanned drones.
common discussions were whether or not it was lawful to eat frogs... we
would find comfort in remembering the different restaurants, fast food
joints and home cooking" left behind, he added.
remarks of his autobiography are "viva la revolucion", adding he prayed
only "that Allah grants me a righteous ending".
But he also spoke
poignantly of the family he left behind, including the baby daughter he
abandoned in Egypt. He also spoke of homesickness and craving Chinese
"I knew that I was going to become a fugitive for the
rest of my life when I made that decision (to fight in Somalia), I was
well into the post 9/11 era," he wrote.
"Someone seeking a thrill or a hippy's midsummer's night dream doesn't normally consciously burn his bridges like that."